The County recently undertook an extensive review of the Official Plan to incorporate new Provincial legislation and policies including bringing the Official Plan into consistency with the Provincial Policy Statement while having regard for matters of Provincial interest, implementing new County policy initiatives and plans including the Cycling Strategy, Corporate Strategic Plan and the Economic Development Strategy Update, guiding growth over a 25-year period to 2046, and reflecting where possible input received through the Middlesex 2046 Engagement.
On July 19th, 2022 County Council adopted Amendment No. 3 to the County of Middlesex Official Plan. Amendment No. 3 must be approved by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and that review is ongoing.
County Official Plan
The County’s Official Plan is a municipal policy document created under the Planning Act that sets out a land use policy vision based on long-term goals and objectives. The Plan provides a policy framework for topics such as resource management, growth management, and the provision of physical services by dealing with issues of Provincial and County interest. The Official Plan recognizes the planning powers and authorities vested in local municipalities and does not set out detailed local policies.
The Plan is Council's primary tool for making land use decisions and managing physical change and provides a way to evaluate and settle conflicting land uses while meeting local, County and Provincial interests. The Planning Act states that no public work shall be undertaken, and no by-law shall be passed, that does not conform to the Official Plan.
Over the next 25 years, it is expected that the County will grow at a faster rate than the previous 25 years with the population projected to increase to as many as 115,000 people. Managing this growth while at the same time protecting agriculture and the natural environment is a key challenge.
The Official Plan Review involved a six-phase study process:
Phase 1: Project Initiation – at the commencement of the Official Plan Review, Council held a public meeting to discuss the revisions that might be required in accordance with Section 26 of the Planning Act. Council gave direction to launch the Official Plan Review and an initial consultation was undertaken.
Phase 2: Background Reports and Policy Formulation – an extensive background and policy formulation process was undertaken that included both the completion of reports in support of the Official Plan Review and also the incorporation of separate but related work including: Source Protection Plan Implementation Background Report, Middlesex Natural Heritage System Study, Middlesex County Economic Development Strategy Update, Economic Development Strategic Plan Alignment with Official Plan Final Report, Middlesex County Cycling Strategy, County Official Plan Transportation Policies Report, Review of the County Official Plan for Compliance with Provincial Changes Report, Homeless Prevention & Housing Plan, Population and Housing Projections Report, Middlesex County Strategic and the work of the Middlesex County Planning Advisory Committee.
Phase 3: Draft Official Plan Amendment Refinement – in addition to consultation undertaken on topic specific areas, a Draft Working Copy Official Plan Amendment and a Consultation Official Plan Amendment were completed for stakeholder, agency and public review. Revised documents were prepared based upon the comments received.
Phase 4: Middlesex 2046 Engagement – the Public Engagement phase (‘Middlesex 2046’) included updated web content, undertaking of social and traditional media messaging, outreach to commenting agencies, collaboration with local municipalities, Indigenous Community outreach, a community survey, the holding of stakeholder workshops, an Open House, and a Public Meeting.
Phase 5: Finalize Official Plan Amendment – a finalized Proposed Official Plan Amendment was drafted based on the background reports and input received.
Phase 6: County Council Adoption of Official Plan Amendment – a final Official Plan Amendment No. 3 was considered for adoption and submission to the Province in accordance with the Planning Act.
Engagement and Consultation
Consulting with people who live, work, or volunteer in the County was an important part of the Official Plan Review – a campaign called ‘Middlesex 2046’. The purpose of Middlesex 2046 was to engage stakeholders and the broader public in meaningful conversations regarding how the County should plan to accommodate projected growth. The Middlesex 2046 Consultation Summary Report provides a detailed overview of the campaign objectives, core values, process, tactics, and input received.
The primary subject matter initiatives, undertaken in support of the Official Plan Review can be summarized within ten topic areas.
Provincial Change – the County Official Plan acts as a ‘bridge’ between Provincial Policy and local municipal official plans by providing guidance to local plans but at a level of detail reflective of upper tier policies. Working with the Province, a ‘Review of the Official Plan for Compliance with Provincial Changes’ background report was completed.
Transportation – a strong and efficient transportation system has been a key long-term priority of Middlesex County and, therefore, represents an important component of the Official Plan. A review of the Transportation System policies was undertaken, and separately, a Cycling Strategy was completed and endorsed by County Council.
Agriculture – is the predominant land use within the County and an important component of the economy and culture. Middlesex County’s agricultural lands and agricultural operations are important locally, provincially, and nationally. A review of agricultural issues was undertaken including minimum farm parcel size, surplus dwellings, and changed Provincial agricultural policy.
Population and Housing Forecasts – are included within the Official Plan and are intended to be used by the County and local municipalities to assist in managing growth and development. Growth Forecasts were completed to reflect a 25-year planning horizon, Provincial projections, and the rapid development that is occurring within the County.
Drinking Source Water Protection – the Clean Water Act is intended to ensure the protection of municipal drinking water sources and, subsequently, human health and the environment. A review was undertaken working with local municipalities and conservation authorities to establish Source Water Protection policy for the County.
Natural Heritage – the County’s Natural Heritage system, made up of features such as woodlands, wetlands, valley lands, and watercourses, provides important environmental, social and economic benefits. The existing Official Plan contains strong natural heritage protection policies but with a focus on the protection of individual woodlands and wetlands. The PPS requires a move from the protection of ‘natural heritage features’ to the protection of the ‘natural heritage system’. To support this, the Middlesex Natural Heritage System Study was completed.
Economy and Strategic Direction – County Council approved two significant strategic documents independent of the Official Plan Review: Corporate Strategic Plan and Economic Development Strategy Update. A policy exercise was undertaken to ensure that the County’s land use planning policies are aligned with these documents.
Development – across the County, building and development has significantly increased across all types of applications. A review was undertaken of the evolving building forms including apartment buildings and other infilling proposals; forms that have not traditionally occurred within Middlesex.
Housing – is a complex issue that has important implications for local communities. The Official Plan review did not include a complete review of housing issues as the County is undertaking a separate ‘Attainable Housing Review’ that will examine the housing continuum and identify gaps in the provision of housing and corresponding strategies. Enhanced housing policies are proposed at this time however a future separate amendment to the Official Plan will be considered to implement the findings of the ‘Attainable Housing Review’.
Additional Considerations – engagement with Indigenous Communities was initiated as part of the Official Plan Review and it is proposed to acknowledge, within the Official Plan, the unique relationship that First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples have with the land. There are minor or technical changes to be made to update wording to reflect changed Provincial or other terminology, update mapping schedules to reflect newer information, and to include overall subject areas throughout the Official Plan such as Climate Change and Healthy Communities. As well, enabling language was developed to allow for the future inclusion of a Village of Newbury chapter into the County Official Plan instead of a separate stand-alone official plan document.
Official Plan Amendment No. 3
The Official Plan Update will also include: changes associated with provincial direction, legislative requirements related to source drinking water protection, alignment with healthy communities policies, and administrative changes.
Important background plans and studies that are being considered during the review process include:
- Official Plan Amendment No. 3 Final Report
- Middlesex County 2046 Story Map
- Consultation Summary Final Report
- Population and Housing Projections Report
- Provincial Changes Report
- Economic Development Strategy 2021-2025
- Middlesex County Strategic Plan 2021-2024
- Homeless Prevention and Housing Plan: 2019 – 2024
- Source Protection Plan Implementation Background Report
- Economic Development Strategic Plan Alignment with Official Plan Final Report
- Middlesex County Cycling Strategy
- County Official Plan Transportation Policies Report
- Presentation to the Middlesex County Planning Advisory Committee (February 17, 2022)
- Planning Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes - December 15, 2021
- Planning Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes - January 19, 2022
- Planning Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes - February 17, 2022
- Planning Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes - April 21, 2022
For More Information:
For further information please contact the Director of Planning using the form provided below.